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The Sexy Boss - Sedition (Book 1)

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The Sexy Boss – Sedition

Book One

Z. L. Arkadie

T. R. Bertrand

Contents

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

The Sexy Series

Also by T.R. Bertrand & Z.L. Arkadie

Copyright © 2015 by Z.L. Arkadie

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Created with Vellum

1

I mind my speed because the roads are icy. I’m late for work. Last night, I attended a going-away party for my boss, Liza Patrick-Sharp. Today is the first day of her new life. Liza is nine months pregnant, and now that she’s off on maternity leave, she’s chosen to relinquish her job for a career as a full-time mom. My new boss is Nolan Patrick, Liza’s brother. She hasn’t shared many details about him, other than that he has a serious demeanor and the two of them are pretty close. Nolan has run the Chicago office for the last five years, and the rumor from that office is that Nolan Patrick is thirty-one years old and has been divorced for about a year. They also say he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, but other than that, he’s fairly nice.

I make a left turn into the parking lot and pull into the first spot I see. I’m fifteen minutes late.

I grab my coat and purse, curse under my breath, and rush out the car to power walk toward the building. My loosely wrapped scarf isn’t doing a good job of keeping the cold wind from moving down my blouse, and I’m virtually an ice statue when I make it inside. Surprisingly, hardly anyone is here. I tug my scarf loose and debate whether or not it’s warm enough to take off my coat. On days like this, the building doesn’t warm up until noon. I grunt, frustrated. I want to take off my coat, but I also want to stay warm. I flip a coin in my mind. Heads, I keep it on. Tails, I take it off. The imaginary coin goes up and hits the floor. I don’t even have to visualize where it ended up.

I keep my coat on, muster up some courage, and walk to Liza’s old office. My heart is beating so fast, and nervousness makes my skin run hot. When I picture Nolan Patrick, I see an anal-retentive bureaucrat afflicted with premature balding. He’ll probably drive me like a slave, but I’m here to do my job, even if that means working my fingers to the bone.

The door is closed, but I knock gently. After waiting for several seconds, I carefully turn the knob and peek inside. The office is empty. I sigh in relief and rush to the break room to make a fresh pot of coffee before Nolan Patrick arrives. I open the cabinet where the coffee is stored.

“Morning, Abby.”

I jump, startled, and look behind me. “Morning, Misty.” I didn’t mean to say that in such a deadpan tone. I’m just freaking out because it seems we’re out of coffee.

She looks at me disapprovingly. “Nice coat.”

I roll my eyes at the siren-red dress she’s wearing. “You do know it’s snowing outside?”

Misty leans against the doorjamb and smirks. “Jealous?”

I squat to search for coffee in the bottom cabinet. “No, just worried you’re going to freeze your butt off.”

“And I’m worried that you look like a snowman in that coat. It’s okay to sex it up once every blue moon.”

I sigh out of frustration. “That doesn’t make any sense, Misty, and where’s the damn coffee!”

She flexes her eyebrows. “So Nolan’s going to be here today.”

Hence the red dress. I slam the cabinet door. “What happened to all the coffee that was in here yesterday?”

She pulls her long blond hair across her shoulder and pets the strands. “Calm yourself, Abby. Just walk to Starbucks and pick up a few bags. Isn’t beverage service scheduled to restock this afternoon?”

She knows the schedule because she flirts with the restock guy every time he shows up. I take a deep breath to get a grip. This morning has been such a rollercoaster. I actually woke up on time but I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. Liza wouldn’t be in the office this morning, and that just made me sad. My life has been so focused on juggling her affairs that I’m not sure what my purpose is at work anymore. Now I’m here and only a good cry sparked by frustration would make me feel better at this point. And why did Misty wear a red dress for Nolan? She’s met him. The two times he came to the Minneapolis office I’ve either been out for lunch or home sick. So I asked her a week ago if she could give me any information about him. She just gave me an indifferent shrug and said, “He’s an okay guy.”

I whip past Misty. “Okay. Going to Starbucks to get coffee. Can I get you anything?” I ask before I can take it back.

“Umm,” she says, faking having to think about her answer. “Caramel latte, skim milk, extra hot.” She smiles. I wait to see if Misty will give me money, but she enhances her smile and says, “I’ll be at my desk.”

She walks right past me. She never pays for the coffee I buy for her. I keep buying her coffee because deep down, I want her to shock the hell out of me by giving me money and proving that she doesn’t always think the world revolves around her. The dwindling time is beating down on me, so I grab my purse and head out without asking her for a dime.

Starbucks is just a block away; I can see the entrance from here. It’s so close, but in this weather, it might as well be a mile away. The icy wind cuts through my coat like a blade. Not even power walking and being nervous is enough to warm me.

I’m shivering like a cold bird when I make it inside the coffee shop. Every morning this place is packed but not today. There’s something strange to the emptiness, but my thoughts are too full. I have to rush back to the office and have the coffee brewed and a list of action items ready before my new boss arrives. I stand in front of a shelf of different kinds of coffee, wondering what Nolan Patrick would like. It’s an impossible question to answer since I’ve never even laid eyes on the man. I make an executive decision and grab two bags of the House Blend, caffeinated and decaffeinated. I waltz right up to the register and pay for them and order a caramel latte with skim milk. Every second that I wait for Misty’s specialty coffee feels like an eternity. I take my cell phone out of my pocket and flip it open. My phone is an older model, which gives it limited ability but I am able to check the local news report on it. Nothing much is going on this early in the morning, other than reports on how bad the weather is supposed to get later today. I should probably go home, but I have so much I want to do before Nolan Patrick arrives—if he even shows up.

“Abby,” the barista calls from behind the espresso machine.

I stuff my phone back into my pocket and scurry to the counter. I’m so relieved to have the drink in my hand that I spin on my heels, ready to get the heck out of here as fast as I can, but my hand that’s holding the coffee slams into what feels like a brick wall. Hot liquid pours everywhere: down my hand, down the front of someone’s camel-colored wool jacket, all over my boots, and all over the floor.

I drop the cup and shake away the heat and sting on my hand. “Shoot.”

I look up and make eye contact with the most handsome face I’ve ever seen off a movie screen. The face happens to be framed by a white or cream-colored scarf.

I’m unable to turn away from his beautiful blue eyes and severe frown. “I’m so sorry.”

He uses his hands to wipe at the stains on his jacket. “What the hell just happened?”

I feel as if I’ve become a deer trapped in headlights, except I’m trapped by his grimace.

“I’m so sorry.” I’m waiting to say something else; however, the combination of my own stupidity and this man’s sex appeal has got me tongue-tied.

I’ve ruined the stranger’s coat. He needs to call me irresponsible. Tell me to watch what I’m doing next time, or better yet, ask for my number and address and insist that I pay his cleaning bill.

“Here you go,” the barista says.

My feet are stuck to the floor as if I’m waiting for the handsome stranger to release me. Finally he breaks eye contact to take a handful of napkins from the barista. I want to stand around and make sure he’s okay, but I’m running out of time.

I walk backward toward the door. “I really do apologize.”

He waves me off and mumbles something that sounds as if he accepts my apology as he continues to rub the coffee off of his coat.

“I can get you another one,” the barista says.

I shake my head. “No, that’s okay. I really have to go.”

I run out into the chill, scurry back to the office, and make the coffee. My face is frozen, and so are my hands. There still aren’t very many people here today. After reading the news about the weather while in the coffee shop, now I know why. A storm is supposed to move in later today.

On my way to the break room, I stop by Misty’s desk to give her the bad news about her caramel latte, but either she’s wised up and has gone home before the worst of the storm hits or she’s stepped away from her desk. I’m pretty sure she went home.

I sigh with relief because I can finally slow down. The coffee is made, but I’m pretty sure Nolan Patrick stayed home today. Instead of leaving, I choose to take advantage of the tranquility and catch up on the work I neglected because of yesterday’s good-bye party.

Before I sit at my desk, I realize that I have an extra set of speakers attached to my computer. Yesterday I borrowed them from Liza’s computer to project music throughout the open floor. We gave Liza a last-minute baby shower during the day and a blast of a good-bye party at night. I could keep the speakers, but now they rightfully belong to Nolan Patrick. I unplug the speakers and walk them to his office. However, I stop in front of his closed door. There are two voices inside. A woman giggles. It’s Misty. A man responds. I can’t make out what he’s saying, but the man must be Nolan Patrick. Apparently the impending bad weather didn’t deter him.

I curse under my breath. Why hadn’t I figured out someone was in his office before now?

I put on a huge smile. It feels too forced, so I bring it in a little. The second smile feels faker than the first. I decide to let my face wear whatever expression it likes. But as soon as I push the door open, I opt for fake smile number one.

“Good morning, Mr. Patrick.”

He stares at me with wide eyes.

I nearly choke once I realize who I’m looking at.

Nolan Patrick is standing in front of his desk, holding a sixteen-ounce cup of coffee. I tear my eyes away from his to look at the coat tree. There, hanging on a branch, is the same expensive camel-colored coat that I slammed into at Starbucks not long ago.

2

Misty narrows her eyes as though she’s agitated that I interrupted them. Nolan Patrick seems just as surprised to see me. No doubt about it, this is a tough spot we’re in.

I summon courage from deep within and walk across the floor to shake his hand. “I’m Abby Banks.”

Nolan Patrick doesn’t budge as he watches me with ruffled brows. My skin runs hot, and I’m lightheaded. I want to run out the door. It’s taking every ounce of determination to keep my hand extended, but I refuse to drop it.

“You’re Abby?” he asks.

I swallow my nervousness. “I am.” There’s a frog in my throat.

He shakes my hand—what a relief! His palms are just as damp as mine.

Misty moves in close to Nolan until their shoulders are practically touching. “Oh, you two met already?”

What a shameless, desperate hag she is. She’s marking her territory, which is fine with me. I’m pretty sure I’m as good as canned. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. But then I look at him—maybe it would be.

I drop my face bashfully. “We met briefly.” I look up.

He’s still watching me with the same conflicted look. “My coat met her first.”

The right side of his mouth is doing something—perhaps a tiny lift into some sort of smile? I’m not sure. I would chuckle or smile if I knew for sure that what he said was a joke. I can’t say I’m sorry one more time. It would make me sound too desperate.

“I thought you may have stayed home like everyone else,” I say to explain why I walked into his office without knocking.

“No, I wanted to get some work done today.”

“Me too,” I say.

I think he’s staring back at me because we’re still looking right into each other’s eyes.

Misty puts her hand on his shoulder. “We all should get going.”

“So, Abby, do you do all the filing?” he asks.

Misty and I glance at each other.

“Um, yes,” I say.

He nods. “Good. I’d like for you to show me where you keep everything.”

“Current and past files?”

His frown is just as severe as it was when I spilled coffee on him. “I said everything.”

Misty and I raise our eyebrows at each other. It seems as if Nolan Patrick actually does have a bug up his rear end.

“Well, okay.” I try to sound as pleasant as possible. “I’ll get those files for you.”

“I want you to show me where they are.”

“Okay.” My voice cracks. I clear my throat. “I mean, okay, but the old files are in the basement.”

Misty touches his manly shoulder. “You know what? I can take you, Nolan.”

I have mixed emotions about her offering to do my job. On one hand, I’m as frightened as a cat facing down a bucket of water. On the other, I screwed up by spilling coffee on his pretty coat. I need to prove to Nolan that he can count on me to be someone other than a clumsy assistant who soils a man’s coat then runs.

Nolan opens his mouth to speak.

“No, I’ll show him,” I say in a rush. To make a point of it, I walk to the door and wait for Nolan to follow me.

“Misty, there’s no use sticking around. You should go,” Nolan says.

I sigh with relief, glad he’s seeing things my way.

Misty looks mystified as Nolan walks in my direction. He’s so tall and handsome. His eyes are ice blue, jaw chiseled, and lips soft pink. Nolan looks more like a sexy leading man than the reigning executive of a family-owned business. No wonder Misty can barely stomach his rejection. Out of all the guys she throws herself at, Nolan is the supreme catch.

She still seems lost for words as we leave the office and walk down the hall. Nolan is on my heels. His energy pushes against my backside. When we reach the door to the basement, I close my eyes and take a deep breath to get control of myself. He’s so quiet that I turn to see if he’s actually still there. Our eyes meet. I quickly turn back around, take my key ring off from around my neck, and open the door.

I flip on the stairwell light. The silence between Nolan and me is so awkward. I try to think of something to fill it.

“So the basement is down these stairs,” I say.

“I got that,” he says.

I want to kick myself for stating the obvious. Appearing stupid on top of clumsy certainly doesn’t help my case. We start down the steps.

“But I’m glad there’s a light. It’s a long way down,” he says.

I feel as if he said that to take the sting out of his last comment.

“Don’t want to tumble and break a neck,” I say.

“Or a leg.”

I chuckle. I’m not sure, but I think he chuckles too. I would have to turn around to see his face to verify it, but I’m too tense to do that. We make it to the bottom of the stairs, and I unlock the door to the basement. The entire room smells of mold, dust, and damp paper.

“This looks like a scene straight out of a horror movie,” Nolan says.

“I think of Freddy Krueger and Jason every time I come down here.” This time I turn to make sure I catch him smiling. One side of his mouth is slightly lifted, and I do think that constitutes a smile. “This way.”

I take him down another long hallway between filing rooms.

“Each room stores different types of documents,” I say. “Which do you want to see exactly?” I can feel his eyes on the back of my head.

“Acquisitions and Deeds.”

I walk two feet and stop in front of the next door. “Those will be in here.” I open it with the master key. We enter the room, and I open the drawer of the filing cabinet to my right. “The As are over here.”

But I flinch, taken aback. The drawer is empty. I open the Bs and Cs and keep pulling open drawers until I get to the Fs.

“What in the world…”

Nolan and I are in panic mode. We go through each of the rooms, and they’re all empty. He looks at me as if I should have answers.

I throw up my hands. “I have no idea what happened to them.”

Nolan pinches his chin as he thinks.

My mind rifles through solutions. It stops on one. “I don’t know if you need hard copies, but last summer I scanned all the acquisitions and deeds files that we kept in storage. I keep them on three flash drives in my desk.”

Nolan shakes his hands victoriously and takes me by the shoulders. “Yes! I could kiss you.”

I gulp nervously.

As if he suddenly comes to his senses, he lets go of my shoulders. “I’ll need those files A.S.A.P.”

“Okay,” I squeak. I could’ve sworn that when he took hold of me, my feet floated off the ground, carrying my head to some heavenly place in the sky.

3

Nolan and I return to our desks, and I give him the three flash drives. Wind is tearing across the building, and the rate at which the snow falls increases every five minutes or so.

I’ve been at my desk for the last three hours, transferring all of Liza’s action item emails to Nolan. However, as the storm gains strength, I start to think that I’d better get out of here before it’s too late. I shut down my computer and put on my coat and scarf. It’s as cold as ice cubes out there, and I’m already dreading exiting the building.

I grab my purse, go to Nolan’s office, and knock on the door.

“Come in,” he says.

I enter. The way he’s looking at me makes my heart skip a beat. “I think I should leave. I want to stay ahead of the weather.”

Nolan shoots out of his chair. “Right. Okay.”

He seems nervous. I wonder if it’s because of the work he’s doing. I have no idea what he’s looking for in those files, but he’s been cooped up in his office for the last couple of hours. Misty paid him a visit about two hours ago, but she came out of his office just as fast as she went in. Then she mumbled good-bye to me and left for the day. Other than Misty’s last visit, I haven’t heard a peep from Nolan.

Our gazes seem to linger for a fraction of a second too long. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something between us. If so, then what would that something be? Nolan is the kind of man who goes out with Sports Illustrated cover models, not confused little executive assistants. I do my job well, but I’ve never loved it as much as I should. I always wanted to be a museum curator, but somehow I ended up trapped in this position. Perhaps Nolan is just one of those people with an intense gaze. When he looks at me that way, I become a deer trapped in headlights.

“Good night, Mr. Patrick,” I say.

“Call me Nolan.” It sounds as if he’s ordering me to call him by his first name.

“Okay, I will.” I turn to leave.

“Oh, Abby? Thank you for going the extra mile.”

I face him. “You’re welcome.”

“And good night.”

“Good night,” I say.

I do an about-face and get out of his office before my face turns red; then he’ll be able to see what kind of effect he has on me. The way I’m reacting to Nolan Patrick is so schoolgirl-immature that I’m ashamed of myself. I give his office door one more glance and hit the road.

The cold wind tries to murder me as soon as I step out of the cozy building. Just as I thought, I should’ve left a long time ago. Thank goodness the parking lot just got a fresh plow. I have my keys ready, and I open my car door and hurry to get in. My jaw shivers as I rub my hands together. Home. The sooner I get there, the better. I fumble the key into the ignition and turn it. The engine ticks. I turn the key again. The same thing happens.

“No…” I cry. I try again. There’s no change. I drop my head on the steering wheel. “This cannot be happening.”

I jump at the sound of knocking on my driver’s side window. It’s Nolan. Since my car has no power, the window can’t be rolled down. I open the door and get an extra gust of cold air.

“Having problems with your car?” he asks.

“It won’t start.” Admitting that to him minimizes some of my anxiety.

“Can you scoot into the passenger seat?” he asks.

In my oversized coat, I move from one seat to the other. Nolan gets into the car and tries to start the engine. The car doesn’t work for him either. He pumps the gas three times and tries again. The car still doesn’t start. He does the same thing four more times.

He says, “Let me get my cables.”

I hug myself because it’s getting increasingly colder, nod, and say, “Okay.”

He gets out and walks across the parking lot. The snowfall has really picked up. A few minutes later, a snow-covered black Land Rover pulls up to the hood of my car. Nolan hops out in his stained camel-colored coat and opens my car door. I try to stifle a shiver when he sits in the driver’s seat and feels under the steering wheel until he finds what he’s looking for. The hood pops open.

I’m in a strange state of shock. Nolan Patrick is actually helping me with my car.

“I’ll make the connections. Hopefully this will work,” he says.

I feel so helpless. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“When I start my vehicle, try to start the car.”

I bob my head, trying to endure the freezing chill that enters the car after he opens the door. It’s a fraction warmer when he slams it shut. I move back into the driver’s seat and watch Nolan move around our cars with a familiarity that indicates he’s no stranger to this type of work. I’m shivering more, and I’m not sure if it’s from the cold or my nerves.

Nolan trots back to my window and shows me a thumbs-up. “When I do this, I want you to turn the key,” he says on the other side of the glass.

“Okay,” I say.

He gets in his big, shiny SUV. The engine of his car roars to life. Nolan puts his thumb up. I turn the key. The engine burps twice then conks out.

Nolan revs his engine, and his thumb goes up. I try again. Nothing happens. He gets out and tinkers with my car for a few minutes. I’m pretty much ready to give up and call AAA. He gets back into his SUV and flips his thumb up. I turn the key. My engine ticks like a cicada.

Nolan gets out and taps on my window before opening the door. “Abby, will you let me take you home? I’ll call my mechanic and have him come look at your car.”

I gasp internally. “Um, sure.”

I’m shaking in my boots. I only live three miles away, but the roads are icy. He’ll have to drive slowly. What in the world will we talk about for the fifteen minutes it will take to get me home?

***

Nolan’s SUV smells like sweet citrus. The seats are the kind that hug the back, and the inside is so clean that it looks as if he just rolled off the lot with the expensive vehicle yesterday. Nolan gets in and rubs a hand through his wet hair. I feel sort of bad. Not only did I spill coffee on his coat, which looks pretty expensive, but because of me, the hems of his pants are wet, and so are his shirt cuffs. Jeez, I’ve made him very uncomfortable today.

“What’s your address?” he asks, sort of like he’s grousing. He holds up his phone, waiting to put my address into the GPS.

“5555 Fifty-Eighth Street, same zip as here.”

He nods. “Visibility is low. The GPS will give me the extra set of eyes that I need,” he says as if he has to explain.

I’m nervous, but I make myself smile. “It’s a handy tool,” I say to fill the awkward silence.

“Right,” he barely says.

I try to ignore the impact his lackluster response has on me.

Nolan puts the wheels on the icy road. He’s driving very carefully, and I’m trying very hard not to look in his direction. He makes me so nervous, yet I’ve never been so comfortable sitting alone with a person I just met. I try to see as much of what’s around us as I can. I’ve taken this drive in these conditions so many times that I’m probably a better guide than the GPS.

This drive could be scary, but Nolan does a great job of stopping at the lights, turning the corners, and getting along with other drivers.

“So, Abby,” he says.

I’m struck by panic and sit back in my seat. “Um, yes?”

“Thank you for the flash drives. That was a great call on your part.”

“Thanks, I…”

“Why…” He glances at me.

My pulse is racing. “I’m sorry, were you going to say something?”

“Please, finish what you were going to say.”

I take in his sexy profile. I momentarily forget what I was going to say because I was merely going to jibber-jab to save us from awkward silence. “Um, I put the files on the flash drives because pieces were always coming up missing or someone else had the file we needed. That’s all I was going to say.” I shrink nervously into my seat.

He chuckles a little. “You answered the question I was going to ask.”

I frown, trying to figure out what that question was—a few ticks later, the answer hits me. Jeez, my brain is so slow when I’m this nervous. “Oh.”

“Are you from here?” he asks.

“Yes.” I try to think of a more intelligent response, but nothing comes to me. “Are you?” He must think that I’m as interesting as a wet rag.

“Actually, I am.”

I pep up. “Oh, what high school did you go to?”

Nolan clenches his jaw. It only lasts for about two seconds, but it feels as if it lasted a lot longer. “I didn’t. I attended a boarding school.”

“Oh.” I want to say that by the look on his face, it appears that that school sucked. If he were anyone but my boss—my sexy boss—I would say it! “Where?” That sounded like a pretty decent question.

His frown turns more severe. “Boston.”

“Didn’t like it?” Shoot. I may have overstepped my boundaries with that one.

“Not really.”

I figured that was the answer, but I didn’t expect him to answer honestly. “Well, you didn’t miss out on anything. High school here was cold and boring. You know that song ‘Wisteria’ by Air? You know, Stacy Love?”

He keeps his eyes on the road. “Never heard of it.”

“It goes ‘and we’re all just the same, we think alike, we speak alike, we even do you-know-what alike,’” I sing out of tune just to give him an idea of how the song goes.

For the first time, I see Nolan’s face brighten. “What do you mean by ‘you-know-what the same’?”

I shift in my seat.

Nolan laughs. “I take it you don’t curse?”

“I curse,” I say defensively.

He laughs again. “Good. I also take it that you mean they even fuck the same.”

I chuckle. “That’s what the song says.”

“Is that true about the high school you attended?”

I roll my eyes to indicate the truth of that statement. “Very.”

He laughs for the third time.

We turn up Newton, and Fifty-Eighth Street is only five blocks away. Nolan and I focus on the flashing red lights up ahead.

He slows the vehicle to a stop. “What in the hell is going on?”

I scoot to the edge of my seat to get a better view. Someone knocks on Nolan’s window, and we turn at the same time to see a traffic control officer. He gestures for Nolan to roll down his window. Nolan complies. Stinging cold air shoots into the cab.

Nolan turns up the heat. “What is it, Officer?”

The officer looks at me and then back at Nolan.

“Sir, I can’t let you pass through here right now, we’re clearing the area.”

“But she only lives a couple of blocks away,” Nolan says as if that should be enough to grant him permission to pass.

I touch Nolan’s arm. “That’s okay. I can walk the rest of way.”

“No way, I’m not going to let you walk home.” He turns frantically toward the officer. “Is there any other road I can take to Fifty-Eighth Street?”

“They’re all closed.”

I gather my purse and tighten my scarf. “It’s really no big deal. It’s stopped snowing so…”

Nolan frowns as though he sucked on a dozen lemons. “I’ll walk with you.”

My first inclination is to tell him that it’s okay, really, I can make it home safely, but he seems so insistent. The officer directs Nolan to park along the side of the road, where snow is piled up. I brace myself before I step out of the car. Once I’m out, air cools my warmed face. Snow crunches under my feet. My knees are weak, and I almost take a tumble, but two strong arms catch me.

“Are you okay?”

I’m surprised by how fast he made it to my side. “I’m fine.”

He lets go of me. “Stand here, I’ll be right back.”

Nolan carefully walks on the slippery road to the officer. They’re talking. Nolan has such a tall, graceful physique. There’s no way a guy who looks like that doesn’t have a girlfriend stowed away somewhere. I’m slightly embarrassed about gawking at some other woman’s boyfriend, so I turn to look at the market down the street. Thank goodness I went grocery shopping the other day.

“Okay, lead the way,” Nolan says.

My jaw is trembling. “This way.”

Nolan wraps an arm around me. “To keep you warm.”

I bob my head, accepting his explanation. I mean, why else would he want to hold me?

It’s so cold that all I can think about is whether or not I left my heater set to seventy-three degrees this morning. I was in such a rush that I don’t remember turning it on. We’ve run out of plowed road to walk on, and the sidewalks haven’t been shoveled. Nolan looks at me as if to ask if I’m okay with treading through deep snow. To show him how fine I am, I lift my knees and trudge through the snow like a pro.

Nolan removes his arm from around me in order to keep his steps steady. I haven’t worked out in long time, and I’m breathing heavily and sweating under my heavy layers. The exercise doesn’t even faze Nolan. Of course he’s in stellar condition—just look at him.

I point at my little white house with a triangular gable. It’s trimmed in light blue, and the shutters are painted the same color. “There it is.”

Nolan’s narrowed eyes follow my finger. I’m sure his house and neighborhood are way more remarkable than mine. But no wonder the roads are closed. They’re layered with at least sixteen inches of snow, and men are working on a broken-down plow in the middle of street. My legs ache, and each step drains me of vital energy. I’m panting so hard, and I don’t even care if Nolan notices.

Suddenly Nolan stops walking. “Abby?”

“Yes,” I say, breathing heavily.

“Do you mind if I carry you the rest of the way?”

Once again, my first inclination is to refuse the assistance. My parents taught me to be self-sufficient in all things, even treading through thick snow. But I’m exhausted, and I don’t think I have enough in me to make it home without resting for at least a couple of minutes.

I shake my head. “I don’t mind.”

Nolan doesn’t hesitate. He sweeps me right up, and I feel as light as a feather in his arms. Goodness, he smells so good. I fight the urge to bury my face in his neck. His breath has a pleasing scent as well. Everything about him makes every cell of my body scream out for more.

Nolan has to really watch his step once he reaches my lawn.

“You have a lot of shoveling to do before the big one hits,” he says with a chuckle.

“I pay one of the neighbor kids to do it. He’ll probably stop by soon to clear the extra snow. He’s very dogmatic about keeping on top of it.”

Nolan smiles as if he’s amused by what I just said. I like the pleasanter side of Nolan. There’s no way to tell where the lawn ends and the sidewalk begins. I guide him to the sidewalk and, one step at a time, up the porch steps. We reach the door, and Nolan puts me down.

“Thanks for the ride,” I say.

He does that thing with his lips where it looks as if he could be smiling but probably isn’t. I open the door and we go in. Just as I figured, I forgot to set the thermostat to seventy-three degrees. I keep it lower at night because I sleep under a thick comforter that keeps me nice and warm. Nolan studies the furnishings. I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing everyone thinks the first time they walk into my house.

“It all used to belong to my grandparents,” I say. “They gave me this house.”

He nods while looking at the grandfather clock. “Nice.”

When my friend Trista visited from Honolulu last year, she said no one our age keeps a grandfather clock. I wasn’t embarrassed about it then, but I am now. I wish I could snap my fingers and make the outdated floral-patterned living room set and shellacked brown coffee table all go away.

We’re standing at the door, and the silence is awkward. Funny, but my living room seems too small for him.

I rub my hands together. “I forgot to set the heater.”

Nolan looks so uncomfortable. “It is rather chilly in here.”

“I’ll build a fire. That’ll help.”

He perks up. “Oh? How about I do that for you?”

I’m stunned by his offer. “Well, okay. I’ll go get the matches. But would you like a drink? Something to warm you up?”

Nolan blows into his hands. “Thanks for offering, but I’ll just start this fire and get back to my car.”

“I understand,” I say as I scurry off to the kitchen, trying to keep my breathing steady as I go. I can’t read too much into this. He’s simply a chivalrous guy. I search through the drawer near the sink until I find the matches. Once they’re in my hand, I squeeze the box tightly, reminding myself that this afternoon with Nolan Patrick actually happened. I hurry back into the living room, he’s squatting in front of the fireplace, positioning the wood. He’s taken off his coat, and he looks so relaxed. Just for a second, I wonder how it would feel to have him lie on top of me. Only for a second or two.

I hold out the matches. “Here you go.” Our fingers touch, and my heart skips a beat. I’m sure he didn’t feel all the excitement I felt.

Nolan takes the matches. “Thank you.”

One match is all it takes for him to start the fire. I usually go through four or five before I can get it going.

He stands once the fire is purring nicely. “There.” He hands me the matches, and this time, I make sure we don’t touch.

“Wow, I truly appreciate this. It’s not often your boss makes you a fire.”

Nolan chuckles at my sad attempt at a joke. He takes his coat off the couch and puts it on. “There’s a first time for everything.”

I walk him to the door, but he opens it before I can.

“Well, drive safely,” I say. It feels as if we should kiss or something.

He lifts a hand. “See you on Monday morning.”

“Bright and early,” I say.

We smile at each other one final time before he heads down the steps. He passes the neighbor kid, who’s finally made his way to my house.

I close the door and fall on the sofa to gather my bearings. What an afternoon. I have no plans for the weekend. I wish Nolan wasn’t my boss and he would’ve asked me out to a movie or something. He makes my loins throb. My panties are embarrassingly damp at the moment.

Finally, I take off my coat and boots and sit back and close my eyes. A beverage would be nice, but I can’t decide what I want to drink. Instead of deciding, I let my thoughts paint pictures of Nolan pounding the hell out of me in my bed. Then his tongue does laps around my nipples, down my sternum, and…wait. I didn’t like the way he did that. We skipped a step. His tongue laps around my other nipple then back to the one he left wet. He moans, loving the taste. My insides pulsate, turning wetter. Two fingers slide in and out of my milky thickness. His thumb smashes against my pleasure spot and circles it. I’m coming… coming…

Knock—knock—knock.

I gasp and open my eyes.

There’s someone at the door.

“Shit.” I look down at my crotch. I’ve gotten myself all worked up.

It must be the neighbor kid leaving his invoice. He doesn’t like carrying cash, so we all have to drop off our payments in the mail-slot in his mother’s door. One snowy month, I owed him a whopping one hundred fifty bucks.

I open the door, and to my surprise, it’s Nolan.

“Hey?” I say.

“I’m plowed in for a while. Do you mind if I stay here and keep warm until I can get out?”

There’s the face of the man I just imagined doing dirty things to me. I want to crawl in my skin and hide, but instead I put on a smile. “Sure.”

He ruffles his eyebrows. “Are you okay?”

“Sure,” I say in a high-pitched voice. Oh God. I think I might hyperventilate. I get control of myself and open the door wider. “I mean, yes, please come on in.”

His eyes gravitate toward the fire, and he holds his hands up. “It’s not too hot.”

I finally realize that I must look red and flushed. He probably thinks I’m suffering from heat stroke.

“Hey, would you like a drink while you wait?” I ask.

“Sure, what do you have?”

“Coke, coffee, hot chocolate, brandy—”

“I’ll take that,” he says.

“Brandy?”

“Yes.”

I smile and shamelessly bat my eyelashes. “Two brandies coming up. Just make yourself comfortable—again.” On the way to the kitchen, I get a grip and smack myself in the forehead. “He’s your boss, Abby. Jeez.” There, that did it.

I take the finely aged brandy out of the cupboard and pour two glasses. The liquor smells divine. When I make it back to the living room, he’s made himself comfortable on the couch. I hand him the drink and sit across from him.

Nolan takes a sip. “This is good.”

“Perfectly aged,” I say and take a sip.

“Are you a wine drinker?” he asks.

I shake my head. “No, but this bottle used to belong to my grandfather. He only drank the good stuff.”

“Oh?” He sounds intrigued.

“Yeah, this entire house was theirs. They willed it to me.” I see the questions behind his expression. “They didn’t die at the same time. He died first and then…” I close my eyes and take a drink.

“And then?” Nolan asks.

“And then she died two years later. I always thought she died of a broken heart. They really loved each other.” I look around the room, remembering how when they were alive, they filled the space with their spirit. “This whole house is filled with love. That’s why I could never leave it.”

I feel as if I’m talking too much. Apparently all it takes is one guzzle to alter my mental state.

“Have you ever wanted to leave the area?” Nolan asks.

“Millions of times.”

His gaze rolls around the room. “And this house is the reason you’ve stayed?”

I look at the mantel above the fireplace. My grandparents’ pictures used to be lined up across it. I took them down a few years ago. The heartache they caused was too much to bear. “Partially. No.” I sigh. “Yes.”

“If you could go somewhere else, where would it be?”

I’m shocked that he’s interested enough to ask these questions. I haven’t given the answer much thought in recent years.

I shrug. “The winters make me dream of warm places like Hawaii or California, but I always wanted to work at the Art Institute in Chicago. But, I mean, they have pretty bad winters there too.” I hate giving him rambling answers, but instead of putting the brandy down, I take another drink.

“That’s right—you graduated from the University of Ohio with a degree in art history.”

My mouth falls open. “How did you know that?”

He smiles a little. “You’re my executive assistant, so I read your employee file.”

I think about the gap between executive assistant for a holdings company and curator for a museum. “I’m way off track, aren’t I?”

The brandy has me feeling sorry for myself. I set the glass on the coffee table and snuggle up against the couch.

Nolan sets his almost-empty glass on the table and scoots to the edge of sofa, thereby moving closer to me. “You’re young and beautiful. You can always put yourself back on track.”

I grunt. “So is this the point where you say that I’m fired.”

He laughs and gets comfortable. “I’m not going to fire you, Abby.”

My head is twirling, and my tongue feels loose. “Well you shouldn’t. I’m a damn good assistant so…” I nod. “If you fire me, then you’ll regret it in the morning.”

“I’ll never regret anything that I do with you,” he says.

My eyes grow wide. My pulse is racing. I try to ignore that suggestive look in his eyes. I mean, is Nolan Patrick coming on to me? I close my eyes and shake my head. The answer is no way. I squeeze my eyes tighter. I’m seeing things. That’s what happens when I drink brandy.

***

“Are you okay?” he asks.

I take a few deep breaths. “I think the brandy may be a little too strong. I didn’t eat lunch today.”

He grunts. “That was my fault. I should’ve made sure you took lunch.”

I study him with furrowed brows. Is Nolan really that concerned about my missing a meal?

He’s about to say something else when there’s a stern knock at the door. My eyes widen as I wonder who could it be.

Nolan observes my expression. “I’ll get it.”

I nod

and watch his tall, sexy figure walk to my door. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a man like him open my door, our door, every day and sleep in our bed? It’s been forever since I lusted over a man in this way. I’m losing my mind. Nolan opens the door.

“We’ve cleared everything out,” an officer says.

“Thanks, Officer,” Nolan says.

“You want to get on it and get home before the second storm hits. The roads won’t be plowed again until tomorrow morning.”

Nolan looks back at me. I’m sure he notices the lost look in my eyes. I had hoped he could stay a little longer and answer the questions I have for him.

“Right,” Nolan says.

I rise to my feet and try not to tumble over. Nolan closes the door, and here he comes. It feels as if we should kiss good-bye or something. If he wants to kiss, or do something else, I’m so game.

He’s smiling. “Get some rest when I’m gone?”

It takes a moment for me to register that he’s asked a question. “Oh, yes, definitely.” I sound jumpy.

His smile broadens. “Aged brandy can be pretty strong.”

I grin. “Yeah, it’s probably the best way to hear the life according to Abby.”

He chuckles. We stare into each other’s eyes. It’s rare to see eyes so blue. His five o’clock shadow has grown more pronounced. What supple lips he has. Please kiss me.

“See you on Monday?” he says.

Oh. That was a question. “Unless the rapture comes or something.”

He laughs out loud. Oh gosh, what did I just say? Sometimes I can go too far with the bad jokes, especially when I’m a little tipsy.

I pull myself together. “I mean, yes, I’ll see you on Monday.”

He’s still studying me with a smile. My heart is beating so fast and hard that I wonder if he can hear it or not.

“Have a good night, Abby.” Nolan hasn’t moved an inch.

“You too.”

Finally he walks to the door. I’m about to get up, but he points at me.

“Sit,” he says. “I don’t want you to tumble over and hit the floor.”

I sit back down. We give each other one last lingering smile before he opens the door and walks out. Now that he’s gone, I fall back on the sofa.

“Oh my goodness.” What just happened between us?

4

The weekend passes with my nerves all ablaze. When I wake up on Monday morning, I still can’t get Nolan Patrick out of my head. It seems as if I have to remind myself every random second that yes, he’s as gorgeous as the day is long, but, “Abby Banks, he’s your boss.”

I throw on a turtleneck sweater and gray slacks. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if it’s enough. I’ve never questioned whether or not I put on the right outfit for work. I wonder why I’m concerned now. I see that picture of Nolan sitting on my sofa, watching me as if he’s picking me apart. I shake the image out of my head and remind myself for perhaps the millionth time that he’s my boss.

I grab my keys, the Greek salad I packed for lunch, and head into the garage. Nolan’s mechanic looked at my car then had a tow truck drop off my car over the weekend. When he brought my car back, the mechanic said I’d needed an alternator and they happened to have a spare in stock. They replaced the part, and now it’s purring like new.

The snow stopped late last night, giving the plows enough time to get everything clear. Everyone will be coming into the office this morning, so I leave early. I want to get some things taken care of before it gets too busy.

I make it to work in no time. I make some coffee, prepare myself a cup, return to my desk, and spark up my computer. Nolan has sent me an email with a list of tasks he wants me to get done today, which includes scheduling a meeting between him and all of the real estate agents for each region, having accounting provide him with an annual assets and profits report, and scheduling a meeting with him and Joe, the company lawyer. He wants them done A.S.A.P.

I’m in the middle of completing those tasks when I receive a call from Liza’s husband.

I pick up the receiver. “Hello, John.”

“Is Nolan in?”

I’m taken aback by his gruff tone. “No, not yet.”

He doesn’t even say good-bye. He just hangs up.

I look at the receiver in my hand. “Okay.” I put the phone down.

I’m not too surprised by his behavior. He’s been known to behave like an asshole every other day or so. I never knew what Liza saw in that jerk. Once he came in here screaming about some account that Liza took his name off of. They closed the door to her office, but they were talking so loudly that I could hear Liza explain that it was a business account and his name shouldn’t have been attached to it. Then he lowered his voice and kept arguing. I don’t think he won that battle though, because not long afterward, he came stomping out of her office. What a dick.

I keep my head down and work until I finish everything Nolan’s asked of me and more. Suddenly a scent that I’ve grown to crave fills my nostrils. I look up as Nolan sweeps past me.

He stops at his office door. “Good morning, Abby.” His tone is lackluster.

I’m caught in a state of awe. The way his suit fits his toned frame would make any woman’s mouth water. Looking at him is enough to give me a reality check. He’s so out of my league, so I snap out of it and shoot to my feet.

“Good morning, Nolan,” I say. “I’ve got your calendar and action items ready to go.”

He nods approvingly. “Give me five minutes.” He goes into his office and closes the door.

I sit back down and pick up some documents that I think Nolan may need. I know the papers are in order, but I shuffle them anyway. I realize I’m thinking about those times when I spent one evening with a guy and it felt great, then the next day he acted as if I didn’t even exist.

I look at the clock above my desk. Two minutes to go. My line buzzes, and I jump, startled. I pick up the phone. Before I can say anything, Nolan tells me that he’s ready for me to come into his office.

I shake the tension out of my shoulders, enter his office, and sit across from him. My posture is erect. Everything about me says that I’m ready, even though inside, I’m trembling.

“Have you seen the email I sent you?” he says.

I open my folder and keep my eyes pinned to the page. “Yes, I have. I’ve taken care of it all.” I try to concentrate on what I’ve written. Right now, the letters and numbers look indecipherable. “By the way, John called.”

“John? Liza’s husband?” He sounds surprised.

“Yes.”

His entire face collapses into a frown. “What did he want?”

“I don’t know. He just hung up.”

“Well…” He takes a deep breath and looks at me with softer eyes. “If he can’t leave a message, then fuck him…” He winks. “Right?”

I drop my face bashfully. “Right.”

“And listen, Abby, John has nothing to do with our business here. He’s just my sister’s husband. That’s it. If he calls here asking for a file or a client’s phone number or anything at all, give him nothing and tell him to talk to me personally.”

“Of course.” I’m not surprised he doesn’t like John and wants to keep him away from the business.

Nolan and I finish going over the rest of the action items, which ends up being more action items after we discuss them. When we’re done, we smile at each other. I’ve already convinced myself that there’s nothing romantic going on between us.

“Thanks, Abby,” Nolan says.

“You’re welcome.”

“It’s clear we make a great team,” he says.

Jeez, I can’t stop myself from blushing. “Thanks.”

***

It’s later in the day, and I’ve just finished eating my salad at my desk. I’ve made a lot of headway with my work. I send Nolan the updated calendar, make copies of contracts and reports, and send them out to the appropriate parties. I’ve also returned a number of phone calls to answer questions that I don’t need to bother Nolan with. I take a moment to rub my tired eyes and hear Nolan’s office door open.

“You worked a hell of a long day,” he says.

I take my hands away from my eyes and focus on his deliciousness. “We both have.”

He does that thing with his mouth where I can’t tell if it’s a smile or not, but it’s a pleasant expression. “How’s your car running?”

Just thinking about what he’s done for me makes my smile grow wider. “It’s running perfectly! You have a good mechanic.” I reach for my purse, which is in the bottom drawer of my desk. “How much do I owe you?”

He lifts a hand. “You’re already paying me back.”

I wonder if I just saw what I thought I saw—Nolan glanced at my chest before looking me in the eyes. I get a look at my breasts when I finish taking my purse out of the drawer. Oh shoot, my nipples are poking my sweater through my bra. So he was looking at my chest.

I try to keep my breaths from coming quicker. “Okay, well, thanks.”

He stays smiling. This moment is awkward.

Finally he jumps as if he’s snapping out of a haze. “Oh, well—” He checks his watch. “You should call it a day.”

He looks me in the eyes for several seconds then retreats into his office, closing the door. I stare, confused, at the space he just abandoned. I shake my head. Boy, that was weird. Being an assistant for as long as I’ve been one has taught me one of life’s greatest lessons—to not internalize someone else’s puzzling behavior. So I collect my things, put on my coat, and call it a day.

5

At last I make it home. The roads, thankfully, are pretty good. I hear my phone ringing as I open the door and rush inside to pick it up.

“Abby, it’s Kimmy.”

I take off my coat. “Oh, Kimmy. How are you?”

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Not much. I have work tomorrow, so I’m probably just doing laundry and making tomorrow’s lunch.”

“I didn’t ask about tomorrow. I asked about tonight.”

“Well, the two are intertwined, Kimmy. What I do tonight could ruin the day I’ll have tomorrow.”

“Jeez, Abby. Why don’t you just join me for a drink?”

I roll my eyes. Kimmy’s one of my oldest friends. We’ve known each other since junior high, but now she’s newly divorced and ready to find a second husband. She hits a hip and happening bar just about every night. Her motto is “a girl can’t find a husband if she confines herself to the house.” I once told her that she’s trying too hard and true love comes when we least expect it. She nearly bit my head for that remark. “That’s a lazy woman’s excuse,” she said. After that, I decided to keep my opinions to myself, although I still believe that fate is the smartest matchmaker given to the human race. If we wait on it, then true love will find its way into our lives.

“Abby, are you there?”

I sigh tiredly. “I’m here. I don’t know, Kimmy. I’m really tired.”

“Oh come on, Abs. It’s my birthday.”

At first I think she’s coming up with a lie to convince me, but after giving it further thought, I remember that it is actually her birthday. “That’s right. Happy birthday!”

“Don’t ‘happy birthday’ me. Buy me a drink.”

I sigh again. “Okay. I’ll buy you a cupcake or something while I’m at it.”

She asks me to meet her at Marvel at eight, the one near the parkway. I remind her again that I cannot stay out long.

“I know, jeez,” she says.

***

Roads are looking pretty good around the city. I’m a little intrigued about this place we’re going to tonight. It’s supposed to have some pretty exotic drinks, but I can’t really indulge if I want to go to work without a hangover.

I get there, and Kimmy’s looking cute as ever, talking with the bartender. When she sees me walk in, she hops out of her seat. I shuffle over for a heartfelt hug.

“So nice to see you,” she says.

“You too,” I say with a smile.

We have a seat and order our drinks. That cute bartender she was talking to before I showed up has no problem giving us lightning fast service with a smile. I’m sure Kimmy flirted her ass off then showed it to him in that little skirt she’s wearing. It’s just inches away from displaying her crotch.

For over an hour, she tells me all about the last guy she was involved with and how he eventually fucked her over.

“Jeez, he had a girlfriend?” I ask.

She holds up two fingers. “Two of them.” She shakes her head. “The jerk… but you know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes.

“What about you?” she asks.

“What do you mean what about me?”

The bartender sets her third martini in front of her, and she flaps her eyelashes at him. The guy grins at her then at me.

Kimmy frowns at me. “Abby, sweetie, what’s going on with you?”

“What’s going on with me?”

“I don’t mean to offend you, but you don’t look as good as you used too.”

I flinch, taken aback.

“Listen, I could keep that to myself but I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t tell you.”

I sigh. “Tell me what exactly.”

“Well, your hair is…” She gestures with her hands in a way that says she’s trying to come up with the right description. “A mess and not in a good way. You’re walking around in this big balloon of a coat.”

“My coat is warm, and it’s cold outside.”

“I know it’s warm. So is a snowmobile suit. Do you wear that thing to work?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Did you know that ten percent of married couples met at work?”

I feel my eyes bulge. Everything is always about hooking up with her. Although I must admit to myself that she’s hit a nerve. I can’t stop thinking about Nolan. “I guess that leaves a measly ninety percent who don’t.”

She stirs the olives in her martini. “Don’t get sarcastic with me.”

“But you leave me no choice.”

She takes me by the shoulders and looks sympathetic. “Listen. You always used to look so adorable. You’re a beautiful woman, with the perfect body and a sexy face. I mean, you still have that Winona Ryder thing going for you. You should have men lining up to make you theirs.”

I sigh wearily. “I’ve been working hard, and I’m not really going out that much.”

“How’s the job going anyway?”

“Well, Liza’s gone. Remember I told you how scatter-brained she could be?”

“I remember. So you have a new boss?”

I think of Nolan again, and my desire is stirred.

Kimmy points at my face. “Uh-oh, tell me about him.”

I frown. “What do you mean uh-oh?”

“You think he’s hot. I can tell by that look on your face.”

I get rid of whatever expression she’s talking about. “His name is Nolan Patrick. He’s Liza’s stepbrother.”

“Is he handsome?”

“Very.”

Kimmy chuckles. “Boy, you answered that quickly.”

I raise my glass to my lips. “And he smells good.”

She laughs again. “How old is he?”

I shrug. “In his early thirties, I think.”

There she goes gesturing with her arms again. “Abby, you have so got this.”

“But, Kimmy, he’s my boss.” I take a drink, waiting for her to convince me to throw caution to the wind.

“So what? Anyway, I thought you wanted to work in a museum?”

Of course she fails me when I need her the most. “I do. I mean, I did. Heck, I don’t know anymore.”

Kimmy tilts her head suspiciously. “You don’t know anymore because of your new boss. Am I right?”

I shrug, but she hit the nail right on the head.

“Well, that job I told you about in Chicago is an open offer. Greg will do anything to have you in his workspace every day.”

“But he’s your cousin, and he’s married with three children.”

She shakes her head. “No, no, no. He’s getting a divorce and he only has two children. Maybe one and a half children but that’s a long story. Regardless, he would love to make you a stepmommy.”

I frown as if I’m chewing on lemons. “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.” I raise a finger. “But you’re right about my wardrobe and my hair and stuff. I can do better.”

She grabs my shoulders and shakes me. “Yes, you can!”

We laugh. As the night continues, we talk more about the guys Kimmy has been dating and reminisce about old times. What was supposed to be one drink for me and a short night out turns into two drinks for me, four for Kimmy, and four hours spent at the bar. When it’s time to leave, Kimmy and I give each other a great hug. She thanks me for a fun birthday night of gossiping and catching up. She wishes me luck with landing Nolan. I roll my eyes, but I secretly accept her well wishes, and we part ways.

When I make it home, I take a good look at myself in the mirror.

“What happened, Abigail?” I say.

My hair is limp, and my figure is begging for more flattering clothing. Heck, I can do that! I mean, I’ll never degrade myself like Misty, but I can certainly sex it up a bit. Before I go to bed, I dig through my closet and take out a form-fitting brown dress that comes past my knees. What makes the dress so sexy is the deep V-neck, the supple sweater material, and the way it hugs my ass. The color matches my eyes and brings out my alabaster skin.

I hold the dress against me. I can’t wait to see Nolan’s reaction when I walk into his office wearing this. I hang the dress back up, take a shower, and climb into bed. The drinks I had at the bar help take the edge off. Unfortunately I’m too exhausted to fantasize about going at it hot and heavy with Nolan. I fall asleep right away.

***

My alarm clock buzzes, and I hurry to get out of bed and do myself up as I planned. Unfortunately, dolling myself up makes me fifteen minutes late for work. By the time I arrive, Nolan’s already at his desk. I put my coat and purse away, turn on my computer, and head for his office.

I stop at the door, straighten the skirt of my dress, take a deep breath, and open the door. “Good morning.” My smile is larger than life.

Nolan looks at me with wide eyes then coughs. I think he’s choking on his coffee.

6

“Morning, Abby.” He winces as he tries not to cough and pounds himself on the chest.

“Sorry, can I get you some water?” I ask.

I watch his eyes roll brazenly up and down my body.

“Um, no…” He finishes clearing his throat. “Have a seat.” He sounds better.

Nolan can’t keep his eyes off my figure and face; it’s as if he doesn’t know which to focus on. I take the seat in front of his desk.

“Um, listen—” He takes a sip of orange juice. “I would like for you to go out with me on Thursday night.”

My expression goes from focused and upbeat to one of surprise and nervousness. “Excuse me?”

“Would you accompany me on Thursday night?” Nolan says.

Oh my God. Is he finally asking me out on a date? “Of course?”

“I’ve got a meeting with a new client. I told him you’re my assistant so he’ll be working a lot with you, and now he insists on meeting you. I told him I’d ask if you can do dinner at one of his restaurants on Thursday. Could you?”

I go from excited to embarrassed. “Well, sure.”

We finish going over the tasks we have planned for the day. I get up to return to my desk.

“Could I get you anything else?” I ask.

Very quickly his eyes veer down to my bosom and back up to my face. “I’m okay for now. Thank you for asking.”

I smile and nod. Just as I get ready to close the door to his office, he asks me to leave it open.

For the rest of the morning, Nolan and I pretend as if we’re not paying attention to each other. I feel as if I’m not imagining the strong sexual tension between us. He leaves at two o’clock for site meetings with realtors and won’t be back until tomorrow. Now that he’s gone, I can relax. To take the edge off, I decide to do some fun work and put a dent into planning the upcoming Christmas party. It’s the Friday after next. I’ve already hired a highly reviewed jazz quartet that often plays at Reeses. I email the caterer a purchase order and have a brief conference call with those on the decorating committee. We talk about large ball-shaped ornaments placed against the walls, lots of tinsel, and sparkling lights.

The next day at work, I’m anxious from the moment I sit at my desk. Tonight Nolan and I are going to spend some quality time together. I fight the urge to make our night together more than what it is. A client will be at the table with us, so it’s definitely not a date.

“It’s only work,” I whisper to myself.

Nolan hasn’t started closing the door to his office again. I guess he’s comfortable with the sexual tension between us. I’m not but only because I feel that it’s all probably in my head.

Finally it’s past five, and the building is virtually empty. I’m ready with the files for our dinner meeting tonight.

“Abby?” Nolan calls from his office.

I jump and look at him from my desk. “Yes?”

“I’d like to be ready to go in about fifteen minutes. Do you think you can be ready by then?”

“Yes.”

Nolan maintains eye contact with me for six seconds too long. He’s been doing that a lot lately. The funny part is I’m not even sure he knows he’s staring.

Before long, we’re in Nolan’s car on our way to the Wild Roast Cafe. I find myself feeling a little nervous. As we head down Hennepin, we pass the State and the Grain Exchange, past Whole Foods and over the river. I love the way the city looks during the winter. Ice covers everything except for the falls. I catch a glimpse of the Guthrie.

“You like theater?” Nolan says.

I jump, startled. “Huh?”

“You were staring at the Guthrie.”

I smile a little. “Oh, yeah. I like theater.” I think it’s time for me to learn more about my sexy boss. “What about you? What do you like?”

He cocks his head and keeps his eyes on the road. “What about me?” His tone is playful.

I’m so happy he has welcomed my question. “Do you like theater?”

“Sure.”

“What’s the last play you’ve seen?”

He looks at me with a smile before his eyes train back to the road. “Phantom of the Opera.”

I feel like playing with him some more. “Okay. Who’s the composer?”

His smile grows wider. “Andrew Lloyd Webber.”

I feel like I’m getting somewhere, and I want to know more. “So when you went to the theater, did you take a date?”

“Yes. I was in high school.”

“Wow, young connoisseur of fine art.”

He tosses his head back to chuckle.

“So who did you go with?” I say.

“My girlfriend.”

“And what happened to her?”

Nolan turns into the parking garage behind the parkway project and pulls into a reserved spot. “I married her.”

I sit up straight. “Oh.”

The car comes to a rest, and Nolan puts it in park. He leans ever so slightly toward me and says with a breath so soft I can almost feel it on my face, “I’ll be right there.”

My heart is beating a mile a minute as he hops out of the driver’s seat. In an instant, my door opens, and Nolan is standing there. He takes my hand, and my flesh tingles as he helps me out of the car. What is this man doing to me? He’s my boss, I repeat until it sinks into my thick skull, and he’s a gentleman. All of this special attention he’s giving me means nothing significant.

We walk into the restaurant, and Nolan is instantly greeted by a pretty hostess with flowing brown hair and a very short, thin white dress. I wait for Nolan to stare at her as if she’s his last supper, but he hardly notices that the hills of her tits and her panties are on display.

“Nolan Patrick,” a guy passing through the entry says.

“Chef Clark, good to see you.” Nolan shakes his hand and quickly introduces me.

The chef says that he’s just starting his shift and instructs the maître d’ to seat us at the best table in the house. We follow the maître d’ to a table in the corner of the room near but not too close to the window. We have an excellent view of the pedestrian walkway, newly shoveled banks and enclaves of snow, and the Mississippi River. I take it in, careful not to show how much I want Nolan to throw me on top of the table and bang my brains out.

I want to know more about Nolan’s past affairs, only because I want to put myself in her lucky shoes. I mean, I’ve never thought much about marriage or making a family. Heck, everyone I’ve known from high school who got married is either getting a divorce or should get a divorce, and I mean everyone.

I take a moment to compose my question. “So, Nolan, you went to the theater and ended up marrying your date. That’s pretty interesting.”

He peers at me with those sea-blue eyes of his. “And then we got a divorce.”

“Well, don’t worry. I’m sure Cinderella and Prince Charming didn’t live happily ever after either. Nor did Sleeping Beauty and her prince and all the other ones who supposedly lived happily ever after.”

“Not a fan of marriage?” he says.

I shrug. “My parents have been married since forever. They love each other—like for real. Even when I was kid, I knew my parents were each other’s best friend. They used to tell me to make marriage my last priority and life and happiness my first.”

Nolan nods, appearing impressed. “That’s good advice.”

“My parents are good at dispensing wisdom.”

“Do they still live here in the city?”

I grin. “My mom and dad live everywhere. They’ve spent the last five months in Honolulu, and now they’re on their way to St. Kitts.”

“The Caribbean?”

“That’s where they like to spend Christmas.”

“Are you going to join them?”

“They’ve already sent my ticket—first class, mind you.” I wink.

Nolan’s face changes expression. “Abby,” he says quite sternly.

I sit up straight, hoping I haven’t gotten too personal with him. “Yes.”

“Those files you brought? Can you take those out please?”

“Oh, sure.” What a strange and abrupt change of subject. I take the files out of my bag and set them on the table. “Is right here fine?”

“Right there is perfect.” Suddenly he loses that tense expression. “So you’re spending Christmas where it’s warm?”

It takes a moment for me to get back into my cheery mood. “Yes.”

“Well, good for you! Just make sure you come back in one piece.” He winks.

I smile. “I will.”

Our gazes are lingering again. When this happens, my heart can’t help but palpitate.

“Nolan, sorry I’ve taken so long. It’s pretty busy for a Thursday night,” Chef Clark says. “So what do you have for me?”

We tear our eyes off each other to look at the chef, who’s now wearing his work uniform.

Nolan stands up with the files I’ve taken out of my briefcase. “Here’s the proposal. Abby here will be working on all the paperwork coming out of my office.”

Chef Clark studies me with a smile. “That’s why I asked you to bring her. I need to look all my business associates in the eyes so when I call, you know to pick up the phone and hop to it.” He laughs as if that was a joke, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

Chef Clark talks more about franchising the restaurant we’re sitting in. The chef is adamant about making sure the establishments remain high-end. I listen carefully to Nolan’s replies. It’s strange, but he has not yet made one promise. The pretty hostess steps up next to the chef and tells him that he’s needed in the kitchen.

Chef Clark holds up the folders I put together for him. “Thanks for bringing this by. I’ll have my team read through them.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Nolan says.

Chef turns and leaves the table. Nolan sits back down and leans across the table. I’m hypnotized by his eyes.

“And now we can have a drink,” Nolan says.

It takes me a moment to snap out of my haze. “I’ll take a merlot.”

Nolan cracks a smile. “Not quite cold enough for a bourbon, huh?”

I smile. I love that he likes keeping our conversation light when we’re together like this. “Nope.”

The waiter comes, and we order dinner. I ask for the sautéed scallops, and Nolan orders the swordfish.

“So, Abby, tell me a little more about yourself,” Nolan asks while we wait.

“Actually I was hoping you could tell me a little more about yourself.” I’m still not done learning about this gorgeous man’s life before the moment I spilled coffee on him.

Nolan leans back in his chair and smiles. “Okay, what would you like to know?”

I rub my hands together playfully. “Were you able to get your coat cleaned after I spilled coffee on it?”

He smiles. “Yeah, I think it’s going to be just fine.”

I exaggerate wiping my forehead. “Good.”

Nolan chuckles. “What else would you like to know?”

“What are the boundaries?”

He narrows his eyes seductively. “There are none.”

I think I forgot to breathe, and I have to take a few quick breaths to catch up. I’m still fascinated to know what kind of woman would divorce a man like Nolan Patrick.

“Could you tell me more about why you got a divorce?”

He shrugs nonchalantly. “It goes back to your Cinderella analogy. You know, the typical story. We were two people who got married too young. Each of us grew into ourselves more and more, and in so doing, we grew apart from one another.”

I lean in closer. “Isn’t there a through-thick-and-thin clause in the marriage contract?”

Nolan sighs, his posture crumbling a bit. “It isn’t written in black and white. It’s kind of like the projects that you work on, in a way. You start with this idea, and through the process, it changes. It has to change, because you learn new things. You adapt and work with what you have. Sometimes by the end of it, you like what you have, and sometimes you don’t.”

I nod. “Wow, Nolan, I think I get it.”

Nolan sits up straight. “Good.” He leans toward me. “And by the way, you look great tonight.”

I’m taken aback. “Thanks.” I simper as I take another drink of wine.

“So how about you?” he says.

“What about me?”

“You must have a significant other.”

“Actually, I don’t.”

“Why not?” He shoves his hands in my direction and lifts his eyebrows. “Look at you.”

I blush, extremely flattered. “Well…”

“Let me guess, it’s complicated.”

I smile. “Yeah, you could say that.” No need to tell him that I pretty much lost interest in dating in the last three or so years, and I just don’t know why.

“So how long have you not been seeing anyone?” he says.

My eyes kind of roll upward.

“Let me guess, it’s complicated too.”

I look at Nolan and point at him. “Yes!” I say playfully, relieved that he’s given me an out on two not-so-easy questions. “And how long have you been divorced?” The conversation is far more interesting if he’s the one answering questions.

“We’ve been divorced for about nine months now.”

“Oh, and you don’t have any kids?”

“No.”

My eyes narrow. “Let me guess—you were too focused on your career?”

“Actually, we both were.”

“What does she do?”

“The same thing that I do.”

My body shifts. “Really? That must have been interesting.”

“It has certainly made our split more complicated.”

“I bet.”

“Excuse me,” our server says.

We sit back. I guess neither of us had noticed how close our faces were. The server places our food in front of us.

We both enjoy our meals and talk more about some of the greatest spots in the city. Neither of us cares to order dessert. Mostly, I want to have another drink and see Nolan’s place, though I doubt that the offer will arise.

The food is on the house, so Nolan leaves the waiter a hundred-dollar tip. Gosh, he’s such a generous man. His ex-wife must regret the day she let him go. If I were her, I know I would. We make our way toward the exit. As we cross the restaurant, a well-dressed, attractive woman, who is speaking with the maître d’, looks at me and then focuses on Nolan. He stops walking behind me, so I stop walking too.

The woman raises a finger to the maître d’. I read her lips as she says, “Wait a minute.”

Suddenly she’s walking toward us, and I feel Nolan go rigid behind me.

7

“Nolan,” the woman says.

I step aside to keep her from running into me.

Nolan’s expression loses the pleasantness that I worked so hard to put on it. “Kelsey.”

I wonder who in the world this woman is. Perhaps she’s his girlfriend. He’s not married, but a good-looking man like him is bound to have some woman he screws on a regular basis.

Kelsey strokes the side of her neck with her finger. “Funny meeting you here.”

“It sure is.” Nolan looks at me, and her gaze follows. “Kelsey, Abby. Abby, Kelsey.”

She continues with her forced smile, “Hi, Abby, you must be…”

I finish the sentence for her. “Nolan’s assistant.”

“Oh, well, how nice of him to treat an employee to a meal.”

My eyes widen as I look at Nolan. This chick must be the queen of taking sideways jabs. However, I’m no pushover.

“And you are?” I say.

“My ex-wife,” Nolan says.

She looks at him. Her smile is even more forced than it was a second ago. “Well, it was nice seeing you, Nolan.” She turns toward the maître d’. “Excuse me?” She motions with her hand for him to come over.

“Have a wonderful evening, Kelsey.” Jeez, Nolan sounds so sterile.

Her overdriving smile is back. “You too, Nolan.” She looks at me. “Nice meeting you, Abby.”

I don’t believe her. “Likewise,” I say, using my own brand of fakeness.

Nolan is quiet as we walk back to his car. I hate that he’s lost all the pleasantness he had earlier. I guess that’s why Kelsey’s his ex-wife. She just sucked all the joviality out of him.

I fold my arms across my chest. “Well, it sure got brisk this evening.”

“I’m sorry if that was uncomfortable,” he says.

“Oh no, I was referring to the weather.” I smile. “But the passive-aggressive ice queen blew some chill in the air too.” I make a squeamish face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to speak negatively about your ex-wife.”

Nolan waves off my apology. “No need to apologize. She should’ve made a better impression on you.”

I look up at him, and that soft look in his eyes has returned.

“Well, at least she’s beautiful. I guess that’s something.”

Nolan walks with me to the passenger side of his vehicle and opens my door. “I guess so.”

I plant myself in the seat of the Range Rover. Nolan closes my door, and soon we’re on the road, heading back to the office with awkward silence between us. I notice I’m squirming a little in my seat. For a minute, I think it might be just me, but Nolan is looking a little restless too. I think about how I might make the first move. I’ve done it in the past. The only problem is, if I make the first move, I’ll be making the moves on my boss.

So I close my eyes and fantasize about how good our first time would be. Nolan starts with the back of my head as he takes a handful of my hair and aggressively pulls my head back so my lips can meet his. I can feel his five o’clock shadow move across my jaw as he progresses with passion down my neck. His hand shifts, his fingers repositioning on the back of my head to turn it so that he can get a clear look at the side of my neck and the area directly behind my ear. He inhales deeply before advancing his lips around my ear, base of my neck, my hairline and toward my collarbone. His other hand firmly positions itself on my breast, pinching my nipple. I’m so wet that I can feel my drenched panties against the skin of my crotch.

“We’re almost there,” Nolan says.

I snap back to reality. “Oh.” I try to conceal my disappointment. I wanted to finish that fantasy.

***

Nolan glances at me. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with you tonight.”

“Me too,” I say.

His vehicle crawls to a stop next to mine. I look out across the parking lot with piles of snow pushed to the far corner. It looks like I feel—totally empty. All of a sudden, a chill runs down my spine. I look toward Nolan, and just like in my fantasy, he’s caressing the back of my ear. I panic for a minute. Is Nolan Patrick putting a move on me?

“Abby, forgive me if I’m making you feel uncomfortable.”

“No,” I say without hesitation.

“I just…” He keeps petting my ear, sending tingling sensations through the insides of my thighs.

“What?” I say breathlessly.

“It’s just that I find it hard to resist you. Believe me, I’ve been trying, but it’s just so damn hard.”

My head’s spinning. Our lips are so close.

“Oh…” I say.

“I’d really like to kiss you,” he says.

I’m entranced by his nearness. “You would?”

“I would, and I’m going to.”

I exhale. The warmth of his breath moves from my mouth to the base of my neck, around my collarbone, and back up to my lips. He uses his grip on the back of my head to press my lips to his. Locked together, I feel the passion move from my tongue into my chest, down through my stomach, and into my groin.

With a powerful release, Nolan separates his mouth from mine. “Abby, I can’t… I mean, I shouldn’t.”

“Okay.” I’m breathing heavily and confused about what just happened.

Nolan squeezes his eyes shut as he massages his temples. “You’re my assistant.”

He’s afraid to break the rules. I figured as much.

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll go,” I say. I sound so sad. I think I’m a little heartbroken.

Nolan doesn’t even look at me as he nods. I open the door, but he rushes out of the car to help me step out of his SUV. We’re standing face to face, and I realize I’ve already become addicted to the smell of his breath.

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say. Those words barely come out.

He moves his face away from mine. “Have a good night, Abby.” His voice is firm.

My posture deflates as I walk to my car. My throat constricts, and my eyes are watery. Nolan waits to make sure that my car starts, but I avoid looking at him as I pull out of the parking lot. I drive home, watching the road through my tears.

8

Is it too late to pinch myself to see if I dreamt last night? Last night, my sexy boss kissed me in the parking lot. The foreplay that led to the most passionate kiss of my life was surreal. I can still taste him and feel his five o’clock shadow against my cheek. But he was right to stop when he did. I’m his assistant. We shouldn’t engage in any sort of behavior that will complicate that relationship.

I stop in front of the mirror on my way out. I bought these equestrian-style stretch pants while on a shopping trip in Manhattan last year. They’re pretty fitted, showing off my assets.

I finally get enough of studying myself and determining how much I’ll appeal to Nolan. I shake my head. This is so pathetic. I grab my black winter coat out of the closet and my purse.

Last night, while I lay in bed dreaming of Nolan, the city experienced light snowfall. I look out the front window at the driveway. The neighbor kid must’ve gotten up early this morning to shovel the snow. I look at the floor in front of the door and see that he dropped an invoice through the mail slot. He normally waits until the end of the month to distribute invoices, but Christmas is in less than three weeks. I’m sure he wants spending money.

I take a moment to open the invoice. It says that I owe one hundred dollars. I search the page for the kid’s name. It’s Ethan Crawley. I put his name in my memory bank.

***

Despite the cold nights, my car has been purring perfectly ever since Nolan’s mechanic fixed it, so my drive to work is smooth. I practice how I’ll say good morning to Nolan. Maybe I should wait for him to speak first. But I’m the assistant. I should greet him first. Maybe he’ll ask me into his office and apologize for kissing me. He’ll blame it on the bourbon he had with his dinner, and I’ll blame the merlot for the fact that I let him kiss me .

I shake my head. The kiss. The kiss. The kiss. I have to refocus my thoughts, so I think about checking Nolan’s email and putting his calendar together for the next few weeks.

I make it to the lot and park my car in the first space I see. I can’t keep myself from searching the lines of cars, but I don’t find what I’m looking for. Nolan hasn’t made it in yet. That gives me time to make a cup of coffee for myself and plan out our morning sit-down.

As soon as I’m in the building, the warm air hugs me. Operations finally fixed the heater, so now we don’t have wait until noon for the building to warm up. I take off my coat, hang it on the back of my chair, and head to the break room.

“Oh my goodness, Abby, your pants are really cute,” Misty says as she passes me in the hallway.

“Thank you,” I say and continue on.

She follows me. Misty wants to talk, but I have a lot to do before Nolan gets in.

“So how was dinner with Nolan?” she asks.

I increase my pace, but she’s on my heels. “It wasn’t a date. It was work.”

“Oh, Abby, if you think him asking you to a restaurant to meet a client was only about work, then you’re more clueless than I thought.”

I reach the break room and head to the coffee maker. “Think what you must.”

She leans on the doorjamb and folds her arms. “Just watch it, because Nolan can be a heartbreaker.”

I pretend as if her warning didn’t shake me. “He’s just my boss, and I’m his assistant.”

Her eyes roll up and down my body and stop on my face. “Right.”

I roll my eyes. She’s really irking me. Someone else has made coffee, so I get myself a paper cup. “Misty, don’t you have an important job or something?”

“Abby, don’t get upset that I’m looking out for you.”

I slam the cup under the coffee spout. “I’m upset because you’re assuming a lot.”

“Look at you. You’ve changed everything about yourself since he got here.”

I tilt my head curiously. “I remember the first day he arrived. You were coming on to him pretty strongly.”

“Don’t attack me, Abby.”

I glance at Misty; her face has turned red. I’ve hit the nerve she was trying to hide.

I take two vanilla creamers. “Listen, I don’t care about your intentions with Nolan.” That’s a lie. “Do what you want. I mean, okay, I started dressing better.” I take a plastic stick and stir my coffee. “But it has nothing to do with Nolan and everything to do with me.” That’s another lie.

Misty studies me with one eye narrowed. She sighs. “Well, that’s a relief. Because he’s quite the ladies’ man.”

I take a casual sip of my coffee. “And you know this how?”

“He’s dated a couple of women in the Chicago office and broke their hearts.” Misty checks over her shoulder and walks closer to me. “He’s only good for a fast fuck,” she whispers.

“Is that what you want from him?” I ask.

She shrugs one shoulder. “Not anymore. I’m dating someone.”

I can tell she’s waiting for me to ask who, but I won’t ask. I’m done with this conversation. I take a sip of my coffee and start toward the door. “Got a lot of work today. Congratulations on your new relationship.”

I turn the corner and head back to my cubicle, ignoring the fact that Misty just shattered my hopes. Now the reason why Nolan stopped himself last night makes sense. His ex-wife seemed kind of on edge. He must’ve cheated on her. Perhaps he’s a scoundrel.

I sit at my desk and go through his email. Speaking of the devil, I see a message from his ex-wife. She’s asking to meet with him next Friday to discuss some of their property issues. I wonder what issues are those. I also wonder if when they meet, they’ll punctuate the encounter by having sex.

I dismiss my baseless jealousy and get back to work. Nolan keeps me busier than Liza did. I call our biggest clients and resolve their issues. I go from explaining verbiage on contracts to scheduling inspections on potential property acquisitions. By noon, Nolan still isn’t in the office. I’m just about to go to lunch when my line rings. I consider letting it go to voicemail, but instead, I answer it.

“Good afternoon, Abby.”

I plop back down in my seat. “Hi, Nolan.”

“I had to fly to New York to assess potential holdings in Buffalo. From here, I go to Seattle and San Diego. I won’t be back in the office all week.”

I realize my mouth has fallen open, so I close it and clear my throat. “Okay. Well, I guess we can go over the action items by telephone or Skype.”

“Why don’t you complete as much of the list as you can, then email the rest to me.”

Once again, I’m speechless. I want to ask him about last night’s kiss. I kind of think we should talk about it, even if we just confirm that we’ll never do it again. But he wants to play oblivious. I can do that too.

“Fine,” I say. “I’ll reschedule your local meetings this week for next week.”

“Good,” he says.

“Fine.”

The silence between us is awkward.

“Thank you, Abby. We’ll talk soon.” Nolan hangs up.

I can hardly believe what just happened.

***

Nolan is true to his word; he doesn’t return to the office all week. We only communicate through email. I must say though, I cherish the independence. I’m not sure if he scheduled the appointment with his ex-wife or not. I sent him the message, but like our kiss, he never mentioned anything about it.

By Friday, I’m no longer making up fantasies about what would’ve happened if we had taken that kiss further. The week comes to a close, and when I wake up on Saturday morning, the clouds aren’t threatening to snow on us. I dress in a pair of skinny jeans, riding boots, and a red sweater and head to the market to go grocery shopping. An hour later, I bring my groceries back home and go to the Mall of America for some more nice outfits. I’m running out of things to wear that aren’t frumpy.

It’s a week and a half before Christmas, and shoppers are out in droves. The weather is decent today—we’re up to thirty-five degrees. It could be below zero like it was last week. A family cuts through a row of cars to load up their SUV. I’m the only driver who sees them, so I don’t have to worry about competing for the space. Luck is on my side.

Once inside the mall, the smells of fried and sweet food tickle my taste buds. I haven’t eaten all day, and I’m famished. However, there will be no eating before shopping. At every turn, I find twinkling lights, garlands, and the whistling music of Christmas. This is the most wonderful time of the year.

I go straight to Nordstrom Rack and shop the racks that display what’s on trend. I find two sweater dresses, a sweater, and a sexy pair of red pants that I plan to wear to the Christmas party on Friday. I shop at a few other stores and pick up a new pair of boots, shoes, and other accessories. I also get my father and my brother gifts for Christmas. I have something special in mind for my mother. Three hours later, I’m starving, so I head to the food court to get something to hold me over until I can make it home and cook dinner.

Before stepping onto the escalator, I look up then step back. I whip around and hide my face with one of my bags. I don’t think Nolan saw me. What is he doing here? And he’s not alone—he’s here with Kelsey. I can’t steady my breathing as I rush toward the nearest exit. He’s been out of the office all week. He must’ve flown in from San Diego last night. Now he’s spending the day with her.

I step out into the winter afternoon, but the cold doesn’t faze me. I work like crazy to keep myself from crying as I scurry through the parking structure. Why am I in this shape? He’s not my boyfriend. I’ve reminded myself a million times that Nolan is my boss. That kiss must’ve meant nothing to him. Or maybe he was just trying me out, and it only took one kiss to make him come to his senses.

I refuse to cry as I toss my bags into the trunk and slam it closed. I rush to get inside my car. Another driver is waiting to take my spot, so I cut the engine on and back out. As I drive away from the mall, I make a pact with myself to forget it all. I’ll go back to work Monday and be the best assistant a person can have.

9

I had hoped that a storm would hit by Monday so that I could call in sick. Better yet, it would’ve been great to wake up with a sore throat because I’d developed a cold. Unfortunately, I’m fine, and so is the weather. Just because Nolan is no longer an option for me romantically doesn’t mean I have to regain my frumpy ways, so I wear the burgundy sweater dress I bought. It extends to my calves and hugs my body like a glove.

I make it to work thirty minutes before Nolan normally comes in. Just for a second, I let myself wonder, what comes next for Nolan and me? Then reason takes over. I already know what’s next. I’ll start by compiling action items for this week.

I make the coffee and log into his email. I ignore the fact that I’m counting the seconds until his arrival.

“Good morning, Henry,” Nolan says.

I straighten up in my seat. My heart’s pounding like hard rain.

“We’re going to have to talk about those tax distributions for this year,” Henry says.

“Have you asked Abby to put you on my calendar?”

Henry laughs in the way one does to alleviate the sting of his words. “Well, how could I when you’ve been gone all week?”

“That’s no excuse, Henry. Call Abby, make an appointment and we’ll talk.” Nolan mumbles something indecipherable as he sweeps right past me.

I want to say good morning. I open my mouth, but the words won’t come out.

Nolan stops at the door to his office and turns back to face me. “Good morning, Abby.”

“Good morning,” I barely say.

We lock eyes. I’ve always felt that we had instant chemistry, but it could be more my outlook than his.

I clear my throat. “I want to go over your calendar for the week.”

“Did you send out annual report requests to the leasing agents?”

“Yes.” I feel like a soldier under inspection.

“What about the Hotels West project? Did you prepare the bids for them?”

“I have.”

Nolan nods as if he has something heavy on his mind. He goes into the office and closes the door. The week before last, he kept the door open. That says a lot about what he thinks about the possibility of him and me continuing whatever the heck we had going on between us. At least now that he’s out of sight, I can release the tension in my body.

My phone buzzes. I jump and look to see who’s calling my line. It’s Nolan.

I pick up the receiver. “Yes, Nolan.”

“Just come into my office when you’re ready go over the action items.”

I’m shocked. I thought he would avoid being alone with me as much as he could. “Sure. Okay,” I say.

“Oh, and Abby?”

“Yes.” My throat is tight.

“How have you been?” he asks.

“Fine.”

We fall silent.

“Um, can I get you any coffee?”

He sniffs a chuckle. “I’ll get my own coffee.”

“Right.”

Nolan always gets his own coffee.

The silence returns.

“Okay, I’ll be in shortly,” I say and hang up.

That was intense. I look at the time on my computer. There’s no need to wait. I’m ready to go into his office and update him now, but I need a moment to think.

Nolan’s door opens, and he stands on the threshold. His skin is flushed. “Coffee.”

I watch him disappear down the hallway to the break room. Misty turns the corner, and she’s only a few feet behind him. Oh, brother. She’s trying to catch up to him. I roll my eyes and work on another task.

I’m surprised to see Nolan walking back my way so soon. I was sure Misty would hold him in the break room for at least ten minutes. He’s carrying a cup of coffee, and whatever he’s thinking is making him scowl. As soon as he looks at me, his frown turns into a smile.

“I’m ready,” I say.

He holds his door open. “Then come on in.”

I collect my notepad, a paper copy of his calendar, and the folder filled with documents that I need him to review and sign. A strange sensation fizzles through me as I pass him. Nolan’s office smells like him. I want to bathe in the scent.

He rushes over to pull back the chair for me. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” I settle my buns in the seat. I’m happy that he’s still being chivalrous.

Nolan sits.

I’m trapped by his stare, but I look down and shuffle through my folder to break eye contact. “You’ll need to review and sign these documents.”

I fumble the folder as I hand it to Nolan. He grabs it before the pages spill on his desk.

“Hey, do you know if those files have been returned to the basement?” he asks.

“I’m not sure. I haven’t checked.”

“Do you still have the key?”

I slap my forehead. “Shoot, I forgot to give you Liza’s old set of keys.”

His frown deepens. “You have them?”

I hop to my feet. “Sure. I’ll be back.”

I do believe I feel Nolan watching me as I rush out of his office. Once I get to my desk, I open the side drawer and take out the box of items Liza left. It contains her two-and-a-half-year-old Blackberry phone, a key to her office door, which Nolan doesn’t need because he never locks his door, and a bunch of unpaid invoices, which I’ve already gotten copies of and sent to finance. I’m pretty sure Liza would’ve known to leave her key to the basement.

Since I know her number, I place a quick call. Her voicemail picks up.

“Hi, Liza!” My tone is nice and cheery. “I hope you’re well. I’m looking for your key to the basement, and I can’t find it. Do you remember where you left it? If you have a moment, could you call me back on Nolan’s line and let me know? Thanks again, and I really hope you’re doing well.” I hang up.

Before delivering the news to Nolan, I check every drawer in my desk. The only set of keys I find is the one to the filing cabinets against the wall between Nolan’s office and my desk. Ever since I started storing documents on flash drives, I’ve stopped using those filing cabinets.

I walk into Nolan’s office and throw up my hands. “I can’t find the keys.”

His eyebrows furrow. “Humph.”

I sit in the seat I abandoned. “I called Liza. Hopefully she’ll return my call soon.”

“She just delivered two days ago.”

Wow, that’s news to me! “Oh!”

“She may not be near her phone.”

I’m shocked by his lackluster attitude about his niece or nephew. Everyone knows you’re supposed to perk up when a newborn is mentioned.

I scoot to the edge of my seat and thumb over my shoulder. “Well, I still have my keys. I can go check the basement for the files.”

Nolan’s eyes drop to my bosom then rise back up to my face. “Let’s go together.”

My nerves make me shiver slightly. My knees wobble when I stand. “I’ll just get my keys.”

Nolan nods. “Lead the way.”

I stop at my desk, and Nolan stands so close behind me that I can feel the energy and heat from his body. The space between my thighs thumps to the beat of my heart as I retrieve the keys. If only he would draw me into his strong chest.

I show him the keys. “Got them.”

He gives me a tight-lipped smile. I head to the basement as if the entire world is a blur. For some reason, I feel that our little excursion isn’t about finding files. The basement door is right ahead of us.

“Nolan?”

Nolan and I turn. It’s Misty.

“Are you going down to the basement?” she asks.

“Yes,” Nolan says.

“For what?” Misty asks.

Nolan watches her walking toward us. He and I are probably thinking the same thing.

“I mean, they’re redoing the floor down there. That’s why all the files were moved,” she says.

“Moved where?” Nolan asks.

“I don’t know. A storage company came and picked them up a few weeks ago. They’ll be returned sometime this week, maybe Wednesday.”

Nolan turns to me. “Abby, you didn’t know anything about this?”

I shake my head. “No.”

“I want you to find out which storage company has the files.”

“But they’ll be back in two days,” Misty says.

Humph. I’ve known Misty to impose her will. She thinks everybody should do things her way. But there’s something strange about the way she’s making sure we don’t go into the basement. I sort of think she thinks Nolan and I are going down there to make out or something.

“Thank you, Misty.” Nolan’s tone is cold, and so is his expression. He watches her intensely.

Misty does exactly what I would’ve done if I were in her shoes—she walks away. She gives us one final look before she turns the corner. I widen my eyes at Nolan, asking him what next.

“Abby, may I have the keys?” he says.

I give Nolan the keys, and he unlocks the door. Interesting, he’s testing Misty’s claim. I follow him, although the lust I felt earlier has been replaced by curiosity. Something is definitely not right. I remember John calling Misty’s line last week. I didn’t know they even knew each other well enough to bypass me and have a conversation. Then Liza never gave me her keys to the basement. I could draw a few conclusions, but none of them are credible.

Nolan opens the door and cuts on the lights. He holds the door open, waiting for me to enter. He never fails to be chivalrous. The sounds of our footsteps click in the air. My body is responding to his nearness again. We reach the bottom of the stairs, and Nolan walks off ahead of me. He opens the first door we come upon. The room is still empty. He squats and wipes the floor with two fingers.

He stands up straight. “So how was your weekend?”

I’m a little caught off guard by his question. “Fine.”

“Did you do you any shopping?”

My eyes expand with horror. I’m panicking. “Yes, why?”

“That’s a pretty dress you have on, but…”

Oh shit, he’s taken two steps toward me, and now we’re face to face. I forget to breathe as he reaches around to the back of my neck.

“You left this attached,” he says.

I don’t have to see to know he’s holding the sales tag.

My mouth is caught open. His lips are so close to mine. “Oh. Right.”

“Do you want me to take it off?”

I swallow, attempting to moisten my dry throat. “It’s okay.”

Nolan takes me by the waist. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“About what?” My skin is running hot.

“You feel good in my hands.”

“Oh.” I should kiss him. Should I kiss him?

“I like you a lot, Abby.”

“I like you too. You’re a good boss.”

He sniffs a chuckle. “You’re a good employee, and I like you in that way, but I like you in another way too.”

But what about Saturday when I saw him with his ex-wife? I didn’t observe them for long, but from the brief look I got, it appeared as if they were definitely no longer exes. “But Nolan… I didn’t know you felt that way about me.”

“Neither did I.”

Nolan and I whip our faces toward the person who said that. There stands his ex-wife in shiny black riding boots and an expensive Burberry trench coat.

10

Nolan

Abby excused herself and went upstairs. I’m alone with Kelsey, and she’s been riding my ass ever since she showed up. In room number two, I squat and touch the floor. There’s no way in hell they’ve been redone. Misty lied, and I don’t know why she would do that.

“Yes or no?”

I stand. “No, I haven’t fucked my assistant, Kelsey.”

“So now you’re calling me Kelsey and not Kay?”

I’ve already checked seven rooms. The files are missing out of three of them, but last few rooms are filled with busted office equipment, party favors, and bunch of office supplies. Now I open the final door.

“Does it matter what I call you?” I say.

“I guess it doesn’t when you have your tongue crammed down your assistant’s throat.”

I sigh my frustration. This is typical Kelsey, twisting my words. “We weren’t kissing.”

At least, we hadn’t kissed today.

“You were damn close to it.”

I flick on the light. “And if we had kissed, what is it to you?”

Kelsey clenches her lips and shakes her head. I’ve got her in checkmate. She’s dating a professional athlete from one of the local sports teams.

The final room is empty too. I’m about to close the door when I see a yellow slip of paper on the floor at the back corner of the room. I go retrieve it. “Humph…”

“You know, Nolan, I changed my mind,” Kelsey says.

I was so absorbed by the piece of torn paper that I momentarily forgot she was here. I stick it in my pocket. “Changed your mind about what?”

“This.” She waves an envelope.

“What’s that?”

“Changing.”

I feel my whole face collapse into a frown. I no longer have the time or patience to play Kelsey’s goddamn head games. She storms out, taking the envelope with her, and her heels beat the floor. Only a small part of me wants to run after her and get her to tell me what the hell she meant by changing.

“To hell with it,” I mutter.

I let her go. I hate when she shows up unannounced. Now that we’re living in the same town, I’m positive she’ll be doing it more often. I can’t wait until I buy her out of her shares. Maybe then she’ll go marry some other sucker and live in forever misery.

My cell phone rings in my pocket.

I take it out and glance at the screen. I sigh in relief when I see Liza’s name.

I answer it. “Hey, Liza.”

“Nolan, you have to go to the hospital,” she says.

My chest tightens. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. It’s Dad.”

“What about Bill?”

“He’s had a heart attack.” Her voice cracks.

I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. “What do you mean, he had a heart attack? He’s as strong as an ox.”

“Just get to the hospital. Dad needs you.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m at home with the baby. John is already there.”

I grab my balled fist to keep from punching the wall. “John?”

“John’s the one who found him.”

“Found him where?”

“At the house.”

“What was John doing there?”

Liza sighs as though she’s already weary of our conversation. “Just go, Nolan.”

“All right.” I end the call.

11

“What is she doing here?” Kelsey, Nolan’s ex-wife, asks.

At the office, Nolan asked if I would accompany him to the hospital so that we could work on the payout checklist for the year. It’s a tedious task, but we have to pay people who invested in our REITs.

On the ride over, I read aloud each name and gave him the amount. Nolan then told me which numbers to recheck. He looked to be in anguish from the time we left the office until we arrived at the hospital, where he did something totally unexpected. Nolan held my hand from the parking lot until we reached the information station. It was so surreal. I have no idea what he meant by it, and at the moment, he’s too distraught to ask.

Now we’re in the hospital hallway, and Nolan’s ex-wife and I are glaring at each other. I really don’t want to dislike her, but she’s making it extremely hard for me to feel any other way about her. Nolan doesn’t appear to have much patience for her jealous inquiry.

We’re right outside Nolan’s father’s room in the intensive care unit. Nolan is distracted by John, who is standing at the nurses’ station, speaking to one of the nurses.

Nolan puts a hand on the small of my back, and I feel his warm breath on my ear. “Stay here.”

He storms over to the nurses’ station, his eyes still fixed on John. I’ve often seen Nolan agitated but never this infuriated. The situation must call for some mediating because Kelsey tears her eyes away from mine and trots off behind him.

“How did this happen?” Nolan asks the nurse.

“I’m sorry, but who are you?” the nurse asks.

“I’m his son.”

“So am I,” John says.

Out of nowhere, Nolan grabs the collar of John’s jacket. Kelsey gets in the middle of them and drives Nolan back away from John.

“Did you have something to do with this?” Nolan says as he lets go of John.

“You’re crazy,” John yells, straightening his jacket.

“You both need to get yourselves together,” Kelsey says.

Nolan’s breathing like an angry bull. “What are you doing here anyway?” he asks Kelsey.

“I’m here for Bill,” she says.

Nolan shakes his head. “He was perfectly fine when I spoke to him this morning.”

“You know how suddenly these things can happen,” John says.

Nolan mutters something indecipherable. A nurse goes into Bill’s room, and Nolan rushes in behind her. John follows them, and Kelsey scowls at me before she enters. I heard that look she gave me loud and clear. It said, “Back off, bitch.”

***

I stand in the hallway for at least five minutes. Finally a nurse asks me if I want to sit in a nearby waiting room. Before I answer, I listen to the voices coming out of Nolan’s father’s hospital room. Nolan’s expressing how he doesn’t understand how a perfectly healthy man could have a heart attack then fall into a coma in the hospital. The nurse tells him that that doctor will stop by soon and he’ll be the appropriate person to answer any questions Nolan may have. I feel as if I’m intruding on their private family affairs.

I smile at the nurse. “Yes, I’ll go to the waiting room.”

She smiles sympathetically. “I’ll show you.”

I follow the tiny woman out of the intensive care ward.

“Your husband is really angry,” she says.

It takes me a moment to realize that she’s referring to Nolan. I feel obligated to tell her the truth. “Oh no, he’s my boss.”

“He’s handsome.” She opens the door to the waiting room.

I measure with two fingers as I walk past her. “A little.”

We share a chuckle.

“I’ll let your sexy boss know where to find you.”

“Thanks.”

She closes the door. I sit down and take a health magazine off the table to read. I’m halfway through an article on diabetes when the door opens. I look away from the page at Nolan’s miserable face.

I slowly stand. “How are you?”

He lifts his eyebrows as if that should answer my question. “Look, I’m not going to leave this place until my father is released. I called you a cab.”

“Right, I understand.”

Nolan walks over to stand in front of me. His nearness makes me chew nervously on my bottom lip.

He twirls a lock of my hair, releases it, and puts his arm along his side. “I’ll be in the office when I can. Can I rely on you to hold down the fort?”

“Sure. Absolutely.”

Someone pulls the door open. “Nolan, the doctor is back.”

He turns his head to look at Kelsey. “All right.” Nolan faces me again. We stare into each other’s eyes.

“He doesn’t have time to wait for you, Nolan,” Kelsey says.

She’s so snippy—beautiful but snippy.

“I’ll walk you to the lobby,” he says to me.

I think he’s perfected the art of ignoring her. I put my hand on his chest. Touching him feels so good. “No, go see to your father. I can find my way out.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive.”

“Nolan?” Kelsey snaps.

He holds up a hand, gesturing her to stop. I feel as if we should kiss, but we’re both aware that we shouldn’t do it in front of present company.

“I’ll call you soon,” Nolan says then walks to the door.

Kelsey glares at me as though she’s starting a war between us. I break eye contact by looking at my boots, and I don’t look up until they’re gone.

Leaving the hospital feels so good. I hate hospitals. I spent months in the hospital, watching my grandfather then my grandmother die. The ICU is the worst part.

I get lost in the maze of hallways. I was so excited about being next to Nolan that I didn’t pay attention to how we arrived at the ICU. I finally find an elevator and hit the down button. The door slides open after a short wait.

I’m taken aback by who I see. “Misty?”

For a brief moment, she looks at me like the cat that just swallowed the canary, but Misty has always been quick. She puts on a fake smile. “Abby?”

“What are you doing here?” I say.

“I have an appointment.”

“Oh,” I say.

“What are you doing here?” she asks.

“Nolan asked me to come with him.”

“He did?”

I can hear what she’s insinuating in her tone. “We had a lot of work to do. Now he’s going to stay. So he called me a cab. That’s all.”

One of her eyes narrows. I notice she does that when she disapproves of something. “Right…” She checks her watch. “I have to go.”

I flinch, taken aback. I’m shocked she isn’t finding some passive-aggressive way to scold me for being here with Nolan.

“See you tomorrow,” she says and takes off down the hallway.

I watch her curiously. Something about our brief encounter seems off. Regardless, I push the down button again, and when the elevator opens, I get in.

The cab is waiting for me at the main entrance. The driver drops me off at the office, and I get back to work. By the time I’m ready to call it a day, I still haven’t heard from Nolan.

I make it home, strip out of my clothes, and put on my pajamas and a T-shirt. After making and eating basil and tomato pasta for dinner, I still haven’t heard from Nolan. I figure that I shouldn’t take it personally. He’s under a lot of stress. I watch a little TV and go to bed.

***

I pass through Tuesday and Wednesday without seeing hide or hair of Nolan. On Thursday morning, I finally receive an email from him. He wants me to take over a meeting he’s scheduled with Chef Clark. He leaves detailed instructions of what’s to be accomplished. It’s all fairly straightforward. Our company wants to buy and franchise Chef Clark’s restaurants, and the chef’s lawyers need a provision added to the documents. At noon, I meet with the chef by videoconference, and our conversation is short, sweet, and successful.

Misty walks past my desk, carrying a stack of files. For some reason, seeing her puts curious thoughts into my head. As long as I’ve worked with her, I’ve never seen Misty cart around that many files at once. It makes me wonder, are the acquisitions and deeds files back in the basement? It’s still strange that they were moved without my knowledge. I don’t consult paper copies anymore, but nobody knows that but Liza, Nolan, and myself. No one accesses the information in those files more than I do. I should’ve been sent an email, a memo, or something.

Misty said that a storage company carted them out of here. It couldn’t have been during regular business hours or Kristin, the receptionist, would’ve called me.

“Kristin…” I say as I think.

Misty always uses Kristin to do her personal stuff. I shoot out of my seat and head to the main lobby. Tony, one of the realtors, is at Kristin’s desk, flirting with her.

“Hi, Tony, Kristin,” I say, interrupting them.

At first she looks at me as if I’m a bother, but then she perks up. “Hi, Abby.”

Tony says hi too.

“Listen, I have a question for you.” I look at Tony with a look that asks him to give us some privacy. Thank goodness he takes the hint.

Tony pats the top of the booth Kristin sits behind. “Talk to you later.” He looks at me. “Bye, Abby.”

I wave at him. “Good-bye.”

Kristin raises her eyebrows as if to say, what is it?

“Have you given Misty any names of storage companies in the last few months or so?”

She ruffles her eyebrows. “I don’t think so, no.” It appears as if she’s still thinking.

“What is it?” I ask, hoping she’ll give me key information about why those files were taken out of here.

“She gave me a key to the basement and asked me to leave it in my top drawer. The thing is, I remember the key. It had a small L etched on it. You could barely see it, but…”

“It was Liza’s key!” I say.

“Yes, it was. I remembered that you sometimes put Ls on Liza’s keys so you wouldn’t get them all mixed.”

My smile feels as big as the sun. “That’s right, I did. Did she say why she needed you to leave the key in the drawer?”

“Only that someone would be here on the weekend for it.”

“Do you remember which weekend?”

“Sure!” Kristin gives me the date.

I thank her for the information. “One more thing…”

“What is it?” Now that we’ve developed a rapport, she seems ready to flood me with all that I need to know.

“Do you still have that key?”

She opens her desk. “It’s right here. Misty never picked it up.”

I ask her could I have the key, and she gives it to me. I have one more thing to do before I draw my conclusion. When I get back to my desk, I call Liza. I use my cell phone, and she picks up right away.

“Hi, Abigail. It’s been a while!”

I tell her how well she sounds and promise to stop by to see the baby as soon as I can. I also tell her that I heard about her father and hope that he recovers soon. She asks me how everything is working out with Nolan.

“Fine,” I say.

“Good. I knew you would get along with him. You get along with everyone.”

“Ah, how sweet,” I say. “Hey, I have a question for you.”

“Sure.”

“I didn’t receive your key to the basement. Do you know what happened to it?”

“I put it in the box,” she says without hesitation.

“No, it’s not in there.”

“I’m sure I put in there. When I gave the box to John—”

“You gave the box to John?” I ask.

“Yeah, why?”

I don’t want to tell her that I think her husband and Misty conspired to move files out of the office. The question is why? “No reason. I’ll just look through the box again. Maybe I missed something.”

“Okay.”

She goes on for another ten minutes about the joys of motherhood and how much she loves her new baby. I listen with grace. I can’t wait to tell Nolan what I’ve discovered.

12

I, along with the Christmas party committee, spent all day preparing for tonight’s soiree. I took a break to call Nolan twice, but both times, my call went straight to voicemail. Why didn’t I leave a message? Maybe because I took personally the fact that he didn’t answer. Regardless, by six o’clock, the top-floor grand conference was set up, catering had started preparing the food, and the band had arrived. So I drove home, showered, and changed, and now I’m back, wishing I were walking into the party hand-in-hand with Nolan. I’m not even sure he’s going to show up. Nevertheless, Christmas is in the air, and everybody seems to feel it.

My outfit looks great too. My brand-new red sateen skinny pants fit my ass perfectly. My white blouse accentuates my breasts without being too revealing, and I’m wearing green suede ankle boots. Red, green, and white—what a way to say Merry Christmas!

I pass the bar where my co-workers are already getting wasted. Thank goodness we thought to get a number of designated drivers lined up ahead of time.

Among the familiar faces, I see many faces that aren’t. I pass a larger group from one of the other local offices. I stop to say hello and thank them for coming. They tell me how nicely decorated the space is, how good the food is, and how great the band sounds. When the pleasantries are over, I duck out of the circle and continue crossing the room. I’m searching through the sea of faces, looking for what, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m looking for Nolan, but instead, I see a not-so-bad-looking guy checking me out.

My attention turns toward the window. I see the spot in the parking lot where Nolan and I had our little fun, and I smile. I can also make out the reflection of that guy who was checking me out, and he’s rapidly approaching me. The thought of having to amuse some good-looking man, when the only good-looking man I want to amuse is Nolan Patrick, makes me tense. I rub the back of my neck.

“Long day?” the good-looking guy says.

I turn to meet him. “Long month.”

“Yeah, this time of year, they can get to be that way. I’m Lance,” he says.

“I’m Abby,” I say entirely out of courtesy.

He extends his hand. “Hi, Abby.”

I shake his hand, smiling. He’s clearly charmed me. “Hi, Lance.”

“Nice boots,” he says.

I look at my feet. “Oh, thanks.”

“So you work out of this office?” he asks.

“I do. And which office do you work out of?”

“I’m in the Normandale suite.”

My eyes scan of the room. “Oh, I’ve heard it’s nice over there.”

“Yeah, we have a lot of fun.”

I nod. I feel myself becoming uninterested in this conversation, so I work like crazy to change that. The first thing I do is smile.

He smiles too. “So what do you do over here?”

“I’m an executive assistant.”

“Oh.” He tries to sound impressed, but it doesn’t work. “Who do you assist?”

“Nolan Patrick.”

“Oh.” Now he does sound impressed.

“Yeah,” I say, trying to keep the conversation going. “He’s a nice guy. Good boss.”

Lance nods. “He’s a good guy and the sharpest crayon in the box.” I chuckle, and he stares deeply into my eyes. “Why don’t we grab a drink sometime?”

I exhale heavily as I scan my feelings to determine exactly how I want to reject Lance. By chance, I turn my head to the right, and lo and behold, I lock eyes with none other than Nolan Patrick.

The Sexy Series

Welcome to The Sexy Series![_ _]This contemporary romance novel series features stories, starring sexy male professionals and the women who fall for them.

***

The Sexy Series is written by authors T.R. Bertrand and Z.L. Arkadie (Author of the Parched and LOVE in the USA series). They have a lot more books planned so if you want to know about future releases sign up here for The Sexy Series mailing-list. Also, we encourage you to like The Sexy Series Facebook page, which will have extra information and updates about the series.

Also by T.R. Bertrand & Z.L. Arkadie

The Sexy Series

The Sexy Boss – Sedition (Book 1)

The Sexy Boss – Sedition (Book 2)


The Sexy Boss - Sedition (Book 1)

"I want him, and it feels so wrong and yet so right…" This sexy and emotionally charged contemporary romance is set in the majestic city of Minneapolis. Abby Banks couldn’t have known that the stunningly handsome man she spilled coffee on this morning was Nolan Patrick, her new, and extremely sexy boss. He’s way out of her league. But when they find themselves trapped in a snowstorm, sparks fly. Will they end up crossing the line? The Sexy Boss - Sedition (Book 2) is now available. This second, and final book, concludes The Sexy Boss – Sedition story, featuring Abby & Nolan. The Sexy Boss - Sedition is the first sexy and addictive contemporary romance in The Sexy Series by Authors, T.R. Bertrand and Z.L. Arkadie.

  • ISBN: 9781310246302
  • Author: Z.L Arkadie
  • Published: 2015-10-25 08:40:12
  • Words: 21912
The Sexy Boss - Sedition (Book 1) The Sexy Boss - Sedition (Book 1)